Air Force

Franklin B. Thacker Jr. lives in a trailer a few miles outside Appalachia, a worn-out mountain town in the southwest corner of Virginia. Thacker, who is 40, isn’t much for going out. He broke his neck ten years ago in a mining accident, and he spends his days living "bed to the couch." But, one day in January 2005, Thacker got himself a bulletproof vest. Not just any bulletproof vest, but a combat-model flak jacket—"eight times thicker" than the standard-issue police vest.

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The Day Before

Credit administration officials with this: They took to the airwaves in record time to calm the American public. Only the administration officials weren't from the Bush administration. Sandy Berger, William Cohen, Richard Holbrooke, Bill Richardson--the networks paraded the entire Clinton national security team in front of the cameras for wisdom on America's day of grief. And, if the Bush team has any sense, it will do exactly the reverse of what they recommend. That's because the Clinton administration offers a template precisely for how not to respond to terror.

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Unfriendly Fire

In 1967, at the height of the Six Day War, Israeli jets strafed and firebombed a seemingly hostile ship near the Sinai coast. Israeli torpedo boats quickly converged to finish the job, then abruptly ceased fire and offered assistance to the battered crew. Israel had attacked the USS Liberty. In all, 34 Americans died, and 171 were injured. Israeli leaders apologized promptly and profusely, explaining that they had mistaken the Liberty for an enemy vessel--an explanation that subsequent investigations in both the United States and Israel upheld.

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The Double Man

William Sebastian Cohen was born fifty-seven years ago in Bangor, Maine, the first son of a mixed marriage. Cohen's mother, Clara Hartley, was an Irish Protestant from Aroostook County, one of the poor state's poorest rural backwaters, and she was notable both for her beauty and her independence. "She does not care about public opinion," Cohen once told Yankee magazine. "She dismisses it.

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Daschle's Dash

At about noon on March 4, a few hours before he announced he was retiring from the Senate, Majority Leader George Mitchell put in a call to Tom Daschle. "He just wanted to let me know his plans," Daschle says. Daschle was on Mitchell's heads-up list for good reason. As co-chair with Mitchell of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, the South Dakota Democrat is one of Mitchell's closest allies. Even so, Mitchell's decision "came as a complete surprise," Daschle says.

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Sargent Shriver chose the Farmers Union convention in St. Paul as the stage from which to blow his first bugle in the war against poverty. It seemed a natural selection for a militant visionary. There are few places left to seek the embers of evangelical populism except in the vaults of the Farmers Union. And yet, Shriver's words were unexpectedly prosaic. His prepared speech used incense for no altar except the taxpayer's dollar, incantation for no angel except individual initiative, exoicism for no devil except the boondoggle. Nothing could have been imagined less in key with his audience.

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The Truman Administration is now endeavoring to prove its liberalism through the armed services. The Congressional civil war on civil rights has made it impossible for the Administration to show its sincerity on this vital part of the Fair Deal program with legislation this year. Enforcement of fair racial policies in the Army, Navy and Air Force, however, is well within the Administration's power.

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